Justice League is the latest piece of Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe, following such films as Wonder Woman, Batman V. Superman, and Man of Steel. The critical reviews have been mixed, to say the least. In a day and age where superhero movies are the norm, it’s a stiff uphill battle for Warner Bros. to pull off a film that pits Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and several other heroes against a common villain. It takes a certain finesse.
With all that in mind, we got to thinking on the year that was for heroes at the box office. The major question on peoples’ minds is, how does Justice League measure up against the rest? We ranked Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and all the other superhero movies that were released in 2017.
7. The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie came on the heels of the critical success of LEGO Movie, in which Will Arnett also voices the Dark Knight. LEGO Batman is more of a parody of Batman movies in general, and features an all-star cast including Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zack Galifianakis.
On the whole, LEGO Batman was a bit of a disappointing follow-up to the very funny and heartfelt LEGO Movie. It’s not that LEGO Batman was bad, per se. What the movie gets right is that the audience is pretty tired of Batman as a hero, and the plot takes an interesting route because of that fact. Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff that was well-received in LEGO Movie – such as the overcrowding of celebrity cameos – seemed relatively routine in LEGO Batman.
It’s a fine movie with plenty of entertainment for the whole family. But unfortunately, LEGO Batman comes in last on our list.
6. Justice League
Where do we start with Justice League? If you’re looking for an in-depth review of the good and bad points in the movie, we have just the thing. But in general, it could be boiled down to a few points. Justice League is the product of Warner Bros. chasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way that feels rushed and often leaves the audience confused. Imagine what The Avengers would’ve been like if Thor, Loki, and the Hulk had never been previously introduced, and you’ve got an idea of how the character development feels in Justice League.
But there are good aspects that saved Justice League from falling to the back of the list. The action sequences don’t go on forever, as can be a problem in superhero movies. Unlike Batman V. Superman, Justice League has quite a bit of humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The chemistry between the characters is real and refreshing, and Ezra Miller (playing The Flash) steals the show on several occasions.
Justice League is fun and entertaining throughout, and the plot moves quickly to keep you engaged in nearly every scene. But for all the reasons listed above, it doesn’t come close to touching the better movies on this list.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
After LEGO Batman and Justice League, there is quite a distance to travel before you reach Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel had yet another summer hit on their hands with Homecoming, starring Tom Holland as a young Peter Parker (Spider-Man) alongside Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Michael Keaton as the villain.
The cast is great, as is common in the MCU. But on top of that, the story is interesting too. Parker is just a high school kid, wanting to grow up a little too quick after his experience with the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. The action sequences are fun, and the “big reveal” in the third act adds an interesting twist to the story. Probably the best part about Homecoming is how Keaton’s character is layered, portrayed on screen as a decent guy that has been sucked into doing bad things out of necessity.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
The big shock of the MCU’s second phase was the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill (Star-Lord). The GOTG comics weren’t ever exactly a best seller, and its readers generally fell into the “niche” category. So there was plenty of skepticism that a movie based on a team featuring a talking raccoon and a walking tree could do well.
Director James Gunn pulled it off in a big way, and the follow-up with Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is nearly as good. The opening sequence with dancing Baby Groot is adorable, and there is a ton of heart added to the strained relationship between Yondu and Quill. Kurt Russell joins the cast as Ego, Quill’s biological father, and his character is the source of a lot of revelations for both his son and the audience. No spoilers, but the end of the movie is also quite touching in a way that feels completely earned.
Logan comes in on the darker side of superhero movies. How can you go wrong with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart? The setting is several years in the future, beyond all the previous X-Men movies. Jackman’s Logan (Wolverine) is attempting to hide from the world while dealing with his own legacy, and Stewart’s Charles Xavier is extremely sick and needing full-time care.
Logan and Charles end up on a cross-country trip with a young girl – a mutant – being pursued by sinister government agents. This movie is quite a bit more violent than your average hero film and absolutely earns its ‘R’ rating. But the final act is phenomenal, with Logan going full Wolverine on a ton of bad guys to protect the girl and several other young mutants that are desperately seeking sanctuary.
Logan is a movie that can make you smile and put you on the edge of your seat, but it can also make you squirm and put tears in your eyes.
2. Wonder Woman
Who says people won’t see a movie based on a female superhero? This is the one area where Warner Bros. appears to be sneaking ahead of Marvel, who have been reluctant to abide their fans and put out a stand-alone film based on Scarlett Johannson’s Avengers character, Black Widow. At any rate, not only was Wonder Woman extremely well-received, it’s absolutely the best DC movie to date.
Gal Gadot is superb in the role of Diana, and the storytelling is also quite underrated. Any movie-goer with little knowledge of Wonder Woman’s history could see this movie and be instantly caught up within the first 20 minutes. In that regard, Wonder Woman is excellent in that it doesn’t totally feel like an “origin movie.”
While the second act really establishes the title character for who she is – a badass warrior that believes mankind is good at its core – the final act is where Diana truly shines. The action sequences are outstanding but don’t stop the plot from continuing to move. Wonder Woman is simply excellent.
1. Thor: Ragnarok
It’s a close call, but Ragnarok beats out Wonder Woman for the top spot on this list. A big part of the reason why is not only related to Ragnarok itself, but how it holds together the fabric of the MCU at this stage in time, how it sets up Avengers: Infinity War, and the commentary that it makes on certain types of societies.
The basic plot is that Hela, the goddess of death, has returned to Asgard to take her place as queen. Thor and Loki have been lost on a barbaric planet named Sakaar, ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). They find the Hulk, and hilarity ensues. Seriously, this is quite possibly the funniest superhero movie of all time – OK, maybe second to Deadpool. At any rate, Ragnarok keeps you laughing in ways that feel natural to the story.
But it also has heart. Thor comes to some uncomfortable conclusions about his father, Odin, as new information is slowly revealed. Director Taika Waititi is incredible at making the movie fun and intriguing while still finding time to drop in several Easter eggs and making a sly social commentary on Imperialism. Not only is Ragnarok a major victory for the MCU on its own, there are several key moments in the final act that will help transition straight into Infinity War.
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